Clark laughs off Australian blunder

By Claire Trevett

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs has apologised to Helen Clark after the country's media were given a briefing paper describing her as having a domineering leadership style and a foreign affairs policy approach founded on the Vietnam War.

The Prime Minister has laughed off the descriptions as "a hoot".

The pointed appraisal was contained in the official programme for Australian media covering Kevin Rudd's trip to New Zealand this week.

However, sources in the Australian camp at the Pacific Islands Forum in Niue say it has embarrassed Mr Rudd - and the Department of Foreign Affairs has apologised, saying it was a "mistake".

The Australian High Commissioner to Wellington, John Dauth, has also apologised.

After listing Helen Clark's academic background and political career, the biography gave an appraisal of her character, depicting her as a control freak.

It said she was "renowned for her managerial skill, the discipline she demands from those around her and her tight control of all things Labour undertakes under her leadership".

It was also dismissive of her approach to foreign policy, which it said was "forged during the Vietnam War".

Yesterday, the Prime Minister said: "It was a hoot. And I don't propose to release the one I have for Mr Rudd."

She added: "I think it was a pretty minor thing. I had a bit of a laugh. I'm not offended. I thought it was quite funny."

She said she had no comment on whether it was an accurate portrayal, but indicated her own briefing notes on other foreign leaders were no more flattering.

Although Helen Clark laughed it off, it will be embarrassing for Mr Rudd, who is attending his first Pacific Islands Forum after making Pacific development a key prong in his foreign affairs policy.

- NZ Herald

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